KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — An assistant professor who has been embroiled in controversy with Emporia State University for months over allegations of racial discrimination has filed a federal lawsuit accusing the school of hurting his reputation and damaging his career.
In a lawsuit filed Wednesday, Melvin Hale, an assistant professor in the university’s School of Library and Information Management, accused Emporia State of defamation and invasion of privacy. He is seeking a jury trial in Topeka.
Hale and his wife, Angelica, who are black, have alleged someone wrote a racial slur on a piece of paper in the office of Angelica Hale’s graduate assistant in April. They contend Gwen Alexander, the dean of SLIM, did not investigate the incident and retaliated against them for complaining. In September, the university said an investigation of the incident and its aftermath found no evidence of a hate crime or racial discrimination.
Melvin Hale alleges in his lawsuit that the university’s findings damaged his reputation by portraying him as a liar and a fraud. Hale, who has been allowed to teach only online classes from home this semester, said he has been told he would be fired if he did not take several steps, including changing some behaviors in the workplace and retracting public statements naming a university employee as the person who most likely wrote the racial slur. He has said he would not meet the conditions.
The university said in a statement Friday that it wouldn’t comment on pending litigation.
Hale is seeking actual damages in excess of $75,000, punitive damages in excess of $75,000 and any other damages the court finds appropriate.
The lawsuit comes about a month after Angelica Hale, whose position as assistant to the dean of the library information department was not renewed, filed a complaint with the Kansas Human Rights Commission contending she was called derogatory names because of her race and terminated in retaliation for complaining.
Alexander has announced her intention to retire June 30, 2016.
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